Hanami is Japanese for “flower viewing”. Every year from late March to early May, cherry blossoms come into bloom around Japan. Cherry blossom trees, as well as simply the blossoms themselves, are known as sakura. Sakura comes in several different shades, from white to beautiful bright pink.
Sakura trees bloom for just a few weeks each year, and the Japanese Meteorological Agency tracks the ideal dates to view the flowers as they bloom from the South of Japan up to the North. This is known as the sakura zensen, or “cherry blossom front”. Taking note of these dates, locals and tourists enjoy hanami by going for walks in parks and setting up picnics under the trees.
Ueno Park in Tokyo is one of the most popular locations to enjoy hanami. Filled with beautiful sakura trees, you can expect to find many people viewing the flowers, as well as groups of people with elaborate picnics, or hanami parties, so that they can enjoy the celebration all day long. Picnics include lunches, snacks and sweets, along with tea and sake, an alcoholic drink made from fermented rice.
As Ueno Park is a very popular hanami location, “night hanami”, known as yozakura, is also held. ‘Yo’ means night, and ‘zakura’ – meaning the same as ‘sakura’ – means cherry blossom. Paper lanterns are hung under the trees to light up the blossoms at night, creating a wonderful effect.
One of the most spectacular parts of hanami is approximately one to two weeks from full bloom, when the sakura petals begin to fall. Sakura petals begin cover the ground, and where the trees grow near rivers, the petals float on the surface of the water.
Hanami is a beautiful time of the year, and it is well worth visiting a hanami location such as Tokyo’s Ueno Park if you are visiting Japan during this season.